After months of back and forth, Community Health Specialists and the County reached a tentative agreement on wage opener negotiations after first voting to join AFSCME Local 34 in August 2017. Community Health Specialists will be receiving a 1.5% increase across the range retroactive to August 20, 2017. With regularly scheduled contract negotiations right around the corner, Community Health Specialists have made a big jump forward, but it wasn’t easy, and their determination and dedication eventually made it impossible for the County to say “no.”
When a job class “accretes” through a previous agreement that allows a job class with 50% + 1 support to join our union as Community Health Specialists did, there is no legal necessity for the employer to enter into wage negotiations. Often, an employer will offer nothing whatsoever to the newly organized group. As time is on the employer’s side, workers will often grow frustrated or begin to feel like their efforts to organize, not immediately bearing results, were perhaps not worth their time and effort.
Community Health Specialists resisted the temptation to turn against each other or give into despair. Instead, they spoke to other organized workers in their workplaces and found solidarity. Community Health Specialists and other Local 34 members spoke loud and clear at the negotiations table and away from it – calling key County leadership and urging them to improve their offer for a job class that serves our County’s most disadvantaged residents and diverts “crisis outcomes” from our emergency rooms, shelters, jails and other public services.
In the end, County management listened because Community Health Specialists’ decision to organize won them not just the pay increase they deserved, but the even playing field with the employer provided by collective bargaining. County management deserves credit for bargaining in good faith when Community Health Specialists finally got the table. And based on what this group of workers have accomplished in less than a year, it’s not hard to imagine they’ll be in an even better place in 5, 10 or 15 years from now. That’s the union difference.
Your Community Health Specialist negotiations team was lead by Alex Erickson and Justin Dempsey of Local 34 and Jolene Catudio, Joe Broge and Marybeth Juetten of AFSCME Council 5.